If I sinned, I was going to Hell! That is the message I received growing-up, from my parents, the church, the schools, my friends (who learned it the same way I did) and society in general.
I was taught that a SIN was an evil-based thought or action; A lie, wanting something you had or wanting more than I had, not respecting my parents, laziness, having sex out of wedlock, stealing, cheating, assault, murder, drinking or using drugs. Often described as the seven deadly sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.
I was going to Hell, for sure!
Hell? And exactly where is Hell? Hell’s precise location was never disclosed to me when I asked, only that it was “down there,” and that it was filled with darkness, fire, emotional pain, loneliness, and eternal misery. I also learned that Hell was presided over by a horrible red devil-creature, that used to be God’s favorite angel until he sinned and was cast out of Heaven (“Up there”) and the devil’s only purpose now was to get a hold of my soul by any means possible.
And what about the ten commandments? How could I live up to those? That’s some scary shit! No wonder I ran away from myself and into addiction, how could I like myself if I was a Sinner and had broken ALL of the commandments!
What I learned about Sin and Hell prevented me from having a Loving and Trusting relationship with God. How could I ever trust a God that condemned his favorite Angel to Hell, surely I would be doomed as well and I knew what was “down there.”
I never learned that a Sin was actually a though or action committed by myself to protect myself because I was in pain and hurting inside and I had no where else to turn to or place to go to be safe. See, no one ever talked about God and His Undying Love for me and that I was so precious to Him that He would die for me. I was never told what a Sin really is, that it is a thought or action committed by me that hurts me. That when I tell a lie or covet what someone else has, it is a sin because it hurts me and it makes me feel less than I could about myself and that God cries when I sin because I am hurting myself and He Loves Me that Much.
And Hell? Where is that exactly? I believe Hell is here on earth, that I create it when I Sin by believing all the lies that I heard and learned about myself throughout the years. I create Hell when I buy into the lie that I am not good enough and that everyone else is better than me, then I condemn myself to live in a dark, lonely place filled with nothing but emotional pain.
Today, I have crawled out of the Hell that I had created with God’s Grace and today, I believe that His Grace was created for me and that His Love for me is the key to my freedom.